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In Search of Sufis in Gujarat | Travel Photographer: Tewfic El-Sawy

In Search of Sufis in Gujarat | Travel Photographer: Tewfic El-Sawy | PHOTOGRAPHERS | Scoop.it

"In Search of Sufis in Gujarat is a new gallery of 20 photographs made during my recently completed In Search of the Sufis of Gujarat Photo Expedition™. I think these photographs are reflective of my personal style, which is best described as "travel photography meets photojournalism". The gallery features traditional travel portraits, photojournalism-like photographs, and close-up/textures.

I've traveled to India about 20 times so far, and I've always been interested in, and drawn to, its multi-layered religious-cultural identities...which I now know is another term for its syncretism. As I write in one of the photo gallery's panels, Sufism "walked" into the sub-continent from Iran and Afghanistan, and wherever the Sufi acetic teachers lived and died, shrines were built to commemorate their teachings, deeds and legacy...and they eventually became saints, or pirs as they're called in the subcontinent. It is these shrines that were the intended destinations for my photo-expedition, and where we witnessed and photographed the manifestations of this religious fusion. I can't call these either extraordinary nor unusual, since they've been practiced here for millennia. It's just that I haven't been aware of this syncretism before visiting India."-Tewfic El-Sawy

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Theyyam performers | Travel Photographer: Tewfic El-Sawy

Theyyam performers  | Travel Photographer: Tewfic El-Sawy | PHOTOGRAPHERS | Scoop.it

"I've added a couple of galleries to my recently published website:www.telsawy.com. One of the galleries groups photographs of The Sufis, while the other has a grouping of Theyyam performers.

Red is the color of fire and blood, and associated with energy, war, danger, strength, power, determination as well as passion, courage, desire, and love. And it's used in many religious rituals and festivals in India, and worn by religious practitioners such as the Theyyam of Northern Malabar and theVellichapads (or Oracles) of Kodunggallur.

Theyyam is a living cult with several thousand-year-old traditions, rituals and customs, it includes many of the castes and classes of the Hindu religion in the Malabar region. The word Theyyam is a corrupt form of Devam or God. People of the region consider Theyyam itself as a god and seek blessings from them. 


As for the Oracles of Kodungallur, they celebrate both Kali and Shiva at an intense festival that lasts about a week.In their thousands, these red-clad devotees perform self mortification acts by banging on their heads with ceremonial swords repeatedly until blood trickle down their foreheads, and daub the wounds with turmeric. A photo essay titled Agony & Ecstasydocuments the Oracles religious event. 

And yes, I do like the color red." (Tewfic El-Sawy)

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The possessed of Hazrat Ali Mira Datar | Travel Photographer: Tewfic El-Sawy

The possessed of Hazrat Ali Mira Datar | Travel Photographer: Tewfic El-Sawy | PHOTOGRAPHERS | Scoop.it

"The Possessed of Mira Datar is about the shrine of a Sufi saint in Gujarat (India) where hundreds of Muslim and Hindu pilgrims come every day. The belief that this saint can rid people of evil spirits, and other assorted maladies, has continued undiminished for over 600 years. Stories of possessed pilgrims being cured by vomiting snakes, scorpions and nails are circulated by the religious keepers of the shrine, to maintain their status and financial gains."

-Tewfic El-Sawy

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The Oracles of Kodungallur | Travel Photographer: Tewfic El-Sawy

The Oracles of Kodungallur | Travel Photographer: Tewfic El-Sawy | PHOTOGRAPHERS | Scoop.it

The Oracles of Kodungallur celebrate their festival in the Bhagawati temple in Kerala, which usually occurs between the months of March and April. It involves sacrifice of cocks and shedding of the Oracles own blood, to appease the goddess Kali and her demons who are said to relish blood offerings. A chaotic religious event attended by thousands of devotees and their extended families, and certainly not for the fainthearted.

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